To make things more interesting, I thought about ways to resolve certain actions and conflicts in a CCG. Doomtown uses poker hands to resolve duels between players. Dark Age uses dice. Magic has some minigame mechanics like clash that look at the top card of your deck. So I also wanted to use these techniques in History instead of straight comparison of static values printed on the cards.
Static values make things too predictable and usually reduces your options and even stalls the board. In Magic, even just a single defender can stall an entire attack if your creatures are smaller than the defender. In other games, especially in multiplayer, a board state with many cards in play makes players hesitant to attack for fear of retaliation and being ganged up on. Hopefully, by introducing some controlled randomization, we can prevent stalled board states while raising the tension of every conflict.
The randomization is controlled by building your deck to take advantage of the resolution mechanics. That is, you have control of what cards go in your deck, so you can sway the gods of luck in your favor. However, you have to choose which mechanic you want to optimize in, since different strategies call for different mechanics and possibly pulling your deck in opposite direction of your main strategy. For example, quick aggressive strategies prefer low cards, while slow passive strategies prefer high cards. If the aggressive deck puts in too many high cards, his combat efficacy will suffer. However, if he has too many low cards, his cities will not grow as fast. Vice versa for the slow passive deck—high cards makes his cities grow faster, but his production will also be slowed without low, cheap cards.
So let me expound on these mechanics so you can understand how high and low cards are used—even battling via poker hands. All of these are done by pulling the top cards of your deck (called treasury in History).
High Cards: City Growth
One of the main focuses of History (in fact, of the civilization genre) are cities. Cities are the hubs of activity in your empire, including production, trade, research, culture, etc. The more cities you have and the bigger they are, the more stuff you can do and the faster you complete them. Where computer and board games have the luxury of automatic or physical counters to represent a city’s growth rate and how close it is to the next population level increase, I decided to stay away from counters. For one, a counter is already used to keep track of a city’s current population. Using a second counter would confound things. Secondly, I didn’t want city growth to be a certainty. It kind of makes sense when you think about famine, drought, etc. Furthermore, there will be other ways to add population to a city (such as culture battles, to be explained later.)
At the beginning of every turn, you get a chance to see if your city jumps to the next level. For each city, get the number of food yielded by its surrounding terrains. Then pull that many cards from the top of your deck and sum up the rank values of all revealed cards. If that total matches or exceeds the current city population times 6, then it’s a success and increment the population counter. So you see that higher value cards are more useful for strategies relying on city growth—one of the victory conditions is being the first player to have your total population reach 20.
Low Cards: Unit Combat
On the other end, here’s how low cards help you win battles fought with units. Each unit has a base strength, modified by upgrades and tactics cards. Once you have the final strength value, you pull one card from the top of your deck. In order for the unit to deal damage to an opponent’s unit, the value of the pulled card must be equal or lower than your unit’s final strength. This tells us two things. One, a unit with higher strength has higher chances of succeeding. Two, you want more cards with low values in your deck to improve your chances of pulling cards that are lower than your unit’s strengths.
Mixed Cards: Culture Clash
Besides considering whether you want more high and low cards in your deck, there is another type of battle you must prepare for—cultural competition. Once a turn, you can show off your huge culture collection to another opponent. If you win, you get to add a population to one of your cities, but if you lose, your opponent gets to draw a card. The way these competitions are won is each player involved pulls 5 cards from the top of their decks. Then for each culture a player has, he may replace one card and pull another, one card at a time. Once both players are done, whoever has the better poker hand wins. It should also be noted that a rainbow hand which has one of each suit will rank quite high. This mechanic encourages players to build a deck of favoring one or two suits, or a mix of all 5 suits.
History CCG will try to utilize the various advantages of card as a gaming medium. This includes simulating randomization by pulling cards from the deck and comparing them in various ways, such as low ball, poker hands, and totaling up the values.